A recent conversation with a senior manager at a Fortune 500 company highlighted a recurring theme with regards to the subject of employee productivity. The manager shared his exasperation with his team— “They seem really disengaged. I keep it pretty consistent in that I give them straightforward directions and let them own their work.” He continued, “They’re simply not producing, and it has gotten to a point where I’m starting to question their fit for their roles.” The manager’s views reflect a common but misguided assessment of workplace behaviors. More often than not, the reason for employees’ disengagement is not they are underqualified, but rather that they are being mismanaged.
A recent Gallup study revealed that only 21% of employees feel that they are being managed the right way. Another study conducted the same year states that only 33% of US employees are considered engaged, and an abysmal 15% globally.
The reality is that there isn’t really a single template when it comes to people management, and managers should be tailoring their approach according to each individual employee in order to motivate them.
EMBRACING EMPLOYEE DIFFERENCES – WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Without proper consideration of people, companies would risk making the mistake of implementing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution in a ‘made-to-order’ world—like the manager in our anecdote.
As technology industry professionals, we need to think about the recognition of individual differences in a technology context. How can companies achieve productivity from each unique employee by providing the right set of technology enablers? How do we determine which technology capabilities to implement? By investing just 10% more in employee engagement, businesses can expect to boost profits by $2,400 per employee per year.
ENTER WORKPLACE PERSONAS
How can an organization recognize what makes Sally different from David? The first step is to consider factors that are beyond roles and responsibilities, such as what employees perceive as success and failure in the workplace, as well as relevant organizational practices that enable their productivity.
The most common workplace personas consist of the following 10 types:
- Achiever: The quintessential highflyer. An achiever is someone who takes pride in outperforming his/her cohorts, whether or not it’s in an individual or team setting.
- Adventurer: Always on the go. An adventurer thrives in a constantly changing environment, including physical workspace and the type of work he/she does.
- Apostle: The Tim Cook or Elon Musk of the company. An apostle doesn’t have to be the chief executive, but rather someone who truly loves what the company stands for, and whose motivation to work is intrinsic.
- Perfectionist: Welcomes the devil in the details. A perfectionist prefers heads down type of work such as deliverable creation and review.
- Networker: The social butterfly. A networker seems to know everyone in the company and focuses on the “fun-ness” of the workplace.
- Driver: The person who ensures traction and progress. A driver is constantly looking for ways to push the conversation forward and delivering the work on time.
- Unifier: The orchestra conductor. A unifier brings people together and unites them for a common cause, such as garnering support for a new idea.
- Restless: The person who wants to do it all, and do it now. A restless believes the high volume of work is a key performance indicator and a function of job security.
- Influencer: The sweet talker. An influencer possesses extremely high charisma to negotiate and change opinions.
- Director: The guiding force. A director isn’t necessarily in a managerial position, but someone who excels at managerial qualities.
Companies should be aware that an employee could be identified as multiple personas, and exhibit stronger tendencies of one particular persona over others.
LINKING PERSONAS TO TECHNOLOGY CAPABILITIES
Technology must play an integral role in any employee productivity strategy today. This is especially important because 75% of the American workforce say their employers don’t give them access to the latest technology to do their job efficiently.
By understanding how employees fit with the workplace personas, organizations can establish more precise links to technology capabilities that help unlock productivity.
Such linkages are determined based on the factors below:
- What I consider as success/failure – First, a company should understand what the persona considers as success and failure, which can be realized either by a) his or her own performance (internal) or b) the company (external). For example, an achiever considers it a professional success when he/she becomes responsible for the most intellectually intensive projects (internal), while a failure may mean the lack of a robust performance review process (external).
- What I like – Next, what personas perceive as success or failure is then translated into organizational practices that enable their productivity. An apostle values the importance of intrinsic motivation for work, thus an organizational practice he may enjoy would entail non-monetary incentives such as recognition/awards to reinforce his/her alignment with the company’s culture.
- Capabilities to unlock productivity – Finally, organizational practices are then linked to the most appropriate technology capabilities that help unleash a persona’s productivity. Unifiers favor cross-functional collaboration, which means virtual conferencing and content collaboration would give them the means to better leverage their preferences.
APPLYING PERSONAS AS A FRAMEWORK
Because workplace personas are defined based on one’s motivations and preferences, organizations must commit to a very thorough delivery methodology to minimize subjectivity when identifying employees as personas. An example of such methodology may include the use of a carefully framed questionnaire executed in the form of interviews, followed by a comprehensive analysis to determine the most (or least) prevalent personas for prioritization. This exercise would essentially form the basis of any employee productivity program.
As a concept, workplace personas can be adapted into different frameworks to fit various workplace requirements:
- As a matrix approach-In addition to the personas themselves, companies can use job roles as a supplementary consideration. Effectively, each job role (expressed as columns) could be broken down into 10 different personas (expressed as rows) to produce more employee profile accuracy. The greater the details, the time and effort required with this exercise would inevitably increase.
- As a stand-alone model-The 10 workplace personas by itself to identify the most relevant technology capabilities. This approach is most suited for flat organizations, where the diffusion of job responsibilities across the workforce may not warrant the consideration of job roles.
- As an accelerator template-The reality is that personas are not the same for every company. Depending on the culture, each company would have its own unique employee make-up and nuances. Adapting the concept as an accelerator template is most useful as an artifact in a design thinking workshop, where participants can fine-tune what a persona sees as a success, or generate a whole new persona altogether during the initial phase of the session.
An employee productivity transformation journey must first start with understanding the people and what makes them different. Workplace personas when married with the right technology enablers and tailored to the company culture and organizational structure, can become the perfect solution to address the problems of under productivity and generalization of employee profiles. It is a powerful tool that can unlock additional and hidden capabilities in individual workers, and enhance organizational growth, health, profits and overall success.
Co-authored by Jonathan Leung and Ricardo Lugo.
Video by Dorene Zhou
Associate Partner, Infosys Consulting
Seth is a digital transformation expert within our Retail, CPG and Life Sciences industry segment. He manages some of our top accounts, several of which are members of the Internet Retailer Top 500. He has over 20 years of industry experience with deep expertise in strategy, design thinking, digital marketing, CRM, mobility and eCommerce.